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The Czech PACIFIC 2001 DX Pedition
Submitted by admin on Sun, 19.04.2009 - 21:02
Editor's introductory remark:
The author of the following narrative, Josef Plzak, OK1PD, is one of the legends of amateur radio, and not only amongst Czechs. In the early sixties, he brought one of the new and, at that time, extremely rare African countries to the attention of the world under the call sign 7G1A, and twice became world champion in the unofficial amateur radio world championships, the CQ WW DX Contest. This rare call sign undoubtedly helped him to achieve his result but it would have been for nothing if a first-class operator had not been sitting at the set. This is by way of explanation to help young colleagues understand the reference to 'African activities' and the remark 'not perhaps what I used to be', which is just typical of Josef's modesty and refinement.
Josef does not keep his experience to himself. He introduced a large number of beginners to the world of amateur radio with his series entitled 'HAM Radio School' in the Czech magazine 'Amateur Radio' and even when the envy and hatred of the powerful and incompetent deprived him of his lifetime love, HAM Radio, he shared his extensive technical experience by means of lectures at amateur meetings. In his account of the PACIFIC 2001 expedition, we again feel his endeavour to communicate everything that might be of benefit to others.
On two occasions he led efforts to reestablish the OK amateur organization; first in 1968, for which he was rewarded following the Soviet military invasion with an enforced 'silence permit', and for almost twenty years the OK1PD call sign was gagged. Then in 1990, when he was elected first president at the inaugural meeting of the Czech Radio Club. With his life experience and ability to find a common denominator amongst differing opinions he contributed enormously towards the stabilizaton of the new Czech amateur radio organization.
Ham radio is a sport of gentlemen. This might occasionally be questioned in the case of certain people but never with Josef, OK1PD. On the occasion of this birthday, which he has celebrated in the finest manner for radio amateurs, let us all wish him many more years of good health and fruitful work.
How it all started
I was first informed of this event on 16.1.2001, when Jiri, OK1RI, and Jarda, OK1RD, invited me to replace a third member, Franta, OK1EK, who had had to withdraw suddenly for health reasons. After thinking it over for a day, working out my financial circumstances and obtaining the medical go-ahead, I became a member of the PACIFIC 2001 expedition.
Jiri and Jarda had been thinking about this trip for quite some time and had got down to intensive preparatory arrangements at the end of October and the beginning of November last year, when the destination was decided for definite - Christmas Island, timed to enable participation in the ARRL Contest; and a little later, in the middle of December, Jirka got lively and started designing and preparing the antennas and masts.
Christmas Island (Kiritimati in Kiribati), one of the Line Island archipelago, is an independent DXCC country under the name of East Kiribati. The island lies on 156 West Longitude, 200 km north of the equator, 2,100 km south of Honolulu and 3,200 km east of Tarawa, the central administrative island of the Republic of Kiribati. Christmas Island is the largest coral island in the world (with a circumference of over 160 km) and its area comes to one half the area of the remainder of Kiribati. The island is surrounded by sand flats and covered with salt ponds that are connected to a large lagoon opening out to the south. Captain Cook anchored at its mouth on 24.12.1777, hence the name of the island, which was a new discovery for Europeans.
In 1888, the island was incorporated into the British Empire. During the Second World War it was used as a supplies base by the American Army and between 1956 and 1962 it was used by the British as a site for nuclear tests in the stratosphere.
The island is a paradise for fishermen and divers, who can only use the area between the north-west cape and the settlement of Paris, however, because of the high population of grey sharks. There is a total of four settlements on the island, and the administrative centre is London on the southern tip of the island.
After gaining independence in 1979, the island began to see the return of its original inhabitants, who currently number 4,000 Melanesians (whose ancestors from New Guinea populated the island of Kiribati between the 11th and 13th centuries) and 6 Indoeuropeans. There are two hotels on the island (highly overpriced) and as elsewhere in the Republic of Kiribati, the currency is Australian dollars. The island has a regular airline connection with Honolulu (with one flight a week) and a shipping connection with Tarawa (several times a year). The inhabitants make a living from fishing and the industrial processing of sea salt, and in recent times the island has served as a tracking station for the first phase of Japanese satellite flights launched from Tanegashimi (JA6) under the NASDA programme. The Japanese are also building a freight harbour, as the first installation in a programme aimed at using the island for the launch and landing of Japanese pilotless rocket-planes.
The island is considered by Central European amateurs to be one of the most inaccessible countries because propagation over the North Magnetic Pole is very much dependent on solar activity and QSO's with Europe are very difficult during magnetic storms. The island was not activated much by previous expeditions on the lowest bands and WARC bands and transmissions had not previously been made using digital modes. Even though the island is accessible by air, a further reason for its rarity is that the Kiribati administration only issues licences to those who present themselves in person at the administrative centre on the island of Tarawa. If a licence has not been acquired on another occasion, air travel from Tarawa via Fiji to Honolulu and thence to Christmas Island is very demanding both in terms of time and money. Fortunately, Jarda had acquired a licence for the entire territory of Kiribati on his previous Pacific expedition.
During his preparations for the expedition, Jarda organized the transport and accommodation while Jirka dealt with technical arrangements, particularly the design and creation of the antennas, bearing in mind both weight and ease of transport and the maximum attainable technical parameters, while I was asked to prepare the digital operation as circumstances permitted. With the unstinting assistance of Bob, OK2PSG, and Josef, OK2WO, I equipped myself with programs DIGIPAN and MTTY while friends from camping circles sent me an interface box. After making around 300 RTTY and PSK31 contacts I was ready for the expedition.
Getting under way
The expedition took off at two different times: for working and personal reasons, Jiri flew off on 2nd February while Jarda went on the 9th; I went along with Jirka and agreed to visit W6YA, my excellent friend who had visited me a year before in Prague, for assistance with the arrangements for a week-long trip around California.
On March 2nd, Jirka and I flew via Frankfurt to Los Angeles and after a twelve-hour flight I landed for the first time in my life on the American continent. The journey of my life had begun. Although it was highly eventful, my stay in California is beyond the subject of this article and I would only mention that I met up with a number of well-known amateurs, my very old friends. I had a happy ocassion to meet an original HAM SPIRIT in CA. In addition to Jim W6YA, a very good friend of mine and a lover of Czech cuisine, who offerd me a generous hospitality, I met W6EUF, who helped me with his Cesna to understand the megatown LA, my old friends W6ZZ, N7BK, N6AW, K6TQ, K6NA, N6VR, my visitor in 1966 in Conakry, and a real gentleman K6DT. Having used the call sign W6/OK1PD I made at Jim's and Wayne's (W6EUF) QTH over 250 contacts. I travelled in a hired car along the coast between San Diego and Ventura, crossed the Sierra Madre, visited Bakersfield and got as far as Sequoia Park.
A week later I met up with Jiri and Jarda at the airport, we gathered together our expedition baggage and, towards evening, flew off to Honolulu. Our baggage was considerable - construction kits for two fifteen-metre masts, a 27 m vertical, a vertical for 30 m and a number of YAGI antennas (double element full-size for 14 MHz, a duobander for 18 and 24 MHz - for each band four 'full-size elements' designed to be converted to a second five-element on 21 MHz, a five-element for 21 MHz, a five-element for 28 MHz and a three-element for 50 MHz - all in two orange bags 210 cm long and a mere 12 cm in diameter with a total weight of 66 kg - 33 kg each), two 38 kg cases with antenna devices, guy ropes, coaxial cables, and wires and a number of other instruments, two ETO91 beta power amplifiers in special transport boxes and each of us took personal luggage containing an ICOM 706 Mark IIG transceiver, a notebook, a camera and, of course, the least essential and smallest of all - our own personal belongings. We arrived in Honolulu late at night, found our accommodation and looked forward to a tour of the island (especially in my case, as this was my first ever stop on a Pacific island).
In the morning we were greeted by drizzle, the mountain crests were hidden by a veil of clouds and it was unexpectedly cold. After a brief sightseeing tour of Honolulu with a visit to Waikiki beach and the museum at Pearl Harbour we toured the island in a hired car and then walked around Honolulu by night. Some time before 4 a.m. we transferred to the airport with our baggage, bought our tickets, obtained our Kiribati visas and left Hawaii at 6 a.m.
Our destination at last
During the four-hour flight we crossed the time line and suddenly found ourselves a day older. As we prepared to land, from out of the boundless Pacific there popped out a section of dazzling white flecked with green palms and blue ponds joined together with the endless lagoon - all framed within the white tide-line, then a wide concrete landing strip appeared with a very low metal hut at the end, a jolt, and we were at our destination. At home it was midnight 11.2. (while here it was noon 12.2.). The expedition had begun.
At the airport we were met by the noonday heat emanating from the runway and from the metal customs clearance hut (45 degrees in the shade) and the officious barefoot officials in T-shirts and shorts, checking the product numbers of every instrument (their official ritual which they perform just once a week), and then in front of the airport we were greeted by Pere Gratien, a French missionary at the Catholic Mission in the settlement of London and our landlord, together with his friends. After a fifteen kilometre journey in the back of a small truck we arrived at the church, which to my astonishment I recalled having already seen - it was in the first television report to greet the new millennium with the slogan 'this is the place where the new millennium begins'. Beside the new church built for this occasion there huddled the fine old mission building, one of whose three rooms became our home for the next three weeks - the place where we slept, ate, cooked and tinkered about, which we shared with lizards and crabs. Our baggage arrived towards evening and we spent the rest of the first day unpacking, looking around outside the mission and planning the location of our stations and antennas.
From my travel diary
12.2.: Definitive positioning of masts. The main worksite in the Mission hut ('FARE' Motel), the second worksite on the covered veranda of the east side of the Mission, the third worksite in the common-room. The 21/28 MHz antenna mast north of the church, the second 14/18/24/50 MHz mast on the north-eastern side of the church, the 1.8/3.5 MHz vertical east of the Mission on the banks of the lagoon, the two-element vertical wire quad among the palms, the 10 MHz vertical 40 metres from the 1.8 MHz vertical south of the first worksite. All the worksites connected up in a computer network equipped with notebooks and lights. Assembly of the first mast and the 21 MHz. Scorching sun, blinding coral sand. SPF 20 sunscreen inadequate, we protect ourselves from the sun in bath sheets, hats, long-sleeved shirts - but only I have these things with me, Jirka and Jarda have brought nothing like that. In the afternoon, on the recommendation of Father Gratien we visit the island representative, submit documentation and explain the purpose of the expedition. First shock in the evening: the licences issued two years ago with extension confirmed by e-mail only, are only valid for one person. Expedition halted pending appeal.
13.2.: We continue with the preparations. Masts raised. Jirka first presents the spiderman position: bound at a height of six metres he installs the first antenna. Antenna measurement: incredible, the still untested antenna (Jirka's own OWA antenna design - 8m boom) has up to 21.1 MHz SWR 1, (SWR: 21.0-21.15 1.0 to 21.4 1,15)! We do not wait for permission and impatiently tune the transmitter. After switching on the coruscation the transmitter fails. Dismantling it, we find that one of the ceramic capacitors has become misaligned during transport. We repair it and tune it and then there is a call: 07.17Z calling JR0PJR. We are in business! Soon there is a pile-up of Japanese and American stations, excellent reports. Some time later the first European, OH1MAU: 'strongest signal from the Pacific that I have ever heard on this band'. First contact with a fellow-countryman - OM3JH. Late in the evening, activity permitted after a telephone call between the Kiribati Minister of Communications and the island's Second Secretary, everything is in order!
14.2.: 18/24 Mhz duobander completed. Jirka has a peeling face and sunburnt legs. With my dazzled eyes, I have my first attack of snow-blindness. 24 and 18 MHz bands restored. Antenna again with 8 m boom, again never previously assembled, built to Jirka's totally new and original design and SWR is up to 18 MHz below 1.1. and up to 24 MHz 1.35. Jirka dissatisfied with such high SWR and so the antenna comes down again, after repair of the first director it goes up again and this time the SWR is below 1.1 as it ought to be! First contact with OK - OK1MG, on 24 MHz. We continue to assemble the vertical. Unpacking and sorting of guy ropes - pity we didn't pack and label them properly at home after the trial erection of the vertical. The disentanglement is endless. Second worksite set up. 10.1 MHz vertical erected. The Mission electrical installations do not match the transmitter power requirements so we have to reconstruct. Circuit breakers and wiring material sought. A network with a floating earth - everything is live! - I am reconstructing with live current. I have never had such an electrical massage in my life! I work with socks on my hands but it doesn't help very much.
15.2.: Construction of the vertical for the TOP band. The lagoon serves as a waste depot and a public toilet. The guy ropes get entangled in the sticky waste and the branches. I set about clearing up the rubbish, especially the palm and bush branches. The vertical is set up and slowly raised, we fix and balance the guy ropes. The ropes are fine up to the third level but on the fourth level we cannot handle the continual high 60 kph+ east wind. After trials over several hours we eventually give up and the last metres of the antenna remain dragging in 'horizontal' position among the palms. We lay out 2 km of wire as grounding counterweight, most of it in the lagoon, i.e. in salt seawater. Jiri tunes the antenna to 1.8/3.5/3.8 MHz. The SWR values match those which have been calculated and our optimism returns. We finish as it starts to rain for the first time in more than six months of drought. Evening our time, the first contacts on 80 m: at 06.16Z K9OT, after a pile-up, at 07.31Z the first European UR7GG and immediately after ON4UN. Later the first OK - OK1EK and a number of OMs: OM3YE, OM8NY, OM3PA and OM5RW. We finish late at night, happy with an hourly rate of 160 QSOs and contacts with five continents and home.
16.2.: The antenna system of the first (and hitherto only) support mast has been reconstructed. The duobander has been stripped down to its basic components while a second 24 MHz YAGI, identical to the first, has been set up, the antenna has been installed, phased and prepared for Jirka's contest. After resuming the excellent reports, Jirka is practising for the contest working a four-hour SSB pile-up with the USA. In the evening we try out 160 m. The first contact is with W6AJJ, the antenna is live, the palms do not get in the way. Strong atmospheric disturbance. Overnight we broadcast on 40 m, 30 m and 80 m. On 40 metres we work with great difficulty, with strong interference and indistinct signals. Later that night on 80 m there is heavy storm interference erasing the entire call sign.
Today the first bathe in the lagoon and another crisis: Jarda has stomach cramp attacks. He refuses food and is starting to think about returning early. The nearest doctor is in Honolulu and the next flight is in four days. Nothing for it but a strict diet, temperature measurements and the hope that it is not an acute state. [Fortunately, Jarda steeled his nerves right to the end, and just for the record, he is still not entirely back to normal even now (June) that it is clear what the problem is: some tropical bacteria nestled in his intestines. It is not clear where he got it, but one thing is clear: that he contracted it sometime beforehand and the 'favourable' conditions of the island activated it.]
17.2.: Unusually, Jiri has taken up reading; he is relaxing and preparing for the contest. We are transmitting on 30 and 80 m; EU QSO´s are very difficult on the 30 m band, we are mostly working Scandinavia. Central Europe is in strong echo, practically unreadable.
After lunch Jirka enters the contest, we are looking after him with coffee and biscuits and maintaining radio silence at the second worksite. 21 MHz is soon closing and Jirka is waiting impatiently. Meanwhile we are working on 30 m with mostly Japanese, UA0 and later UA9.
18.2.: Europe is flickering before sunrise. 21 MHz opens slowly, Jirka works a pile-up, hourly rates increase and at the peak the electricity goes off - lack of regular generator maintenance deprived Jirka of those few contacts needed for the world championship.
We rearrange the mast, Jirka discovers that local children have meantime taken apart the weakest tubes. In place of the the originally designed and prepared OWA five-element, we place a rapidly calculated and designed antenna of a highly untraditional appearance on the mast with a 6m boom (i.e. 0,6 ?!!) - elements spaced unevenly on the boom, but the SWR has 50 ohms for the entire band (what else when Jirka designed the antenna?). According to calculations, in theory the gain ought to be at least 2 dB more than for an ordinary tribander and with a decent front-back ratio. Pity about the five-element that was prepared but what can be done? We are not going to find the missing aluminium on Christmas Island. We start preparations on another mast.
19.2.: We continue building the second antenna system. While Jarda and I fixed up the second mast, Jirka completed the 20 m two-element YAGI and three-element antenna for 50 MHz. The antennas were installed, measured and progressively tested throughout the day. The third worksite has been prepared, electricity laid on and the third transceiver put into operation. The brand new ASTRON power supply bought by Jirka on his travels in the USA does not work and cannot be repaired without spare parts. Still we rejoice that at least the other two identical power supplies bought on our travels work without problems - these power supplies are something of a miracle - they give 20 A without difficulties or interference - with their 'huge weight of 1.9 kg.
20.2.: We hire a local youth to climb up two coconut palms and we build a 40 m two-element delta loop directed northwards - i.e. ideally at Europe; the USA and the Japanese are approx. 40 degrees to one side but this will probably not matter, after tuning - raising or lowering of the bottom side by several centimetres the SWR is again so so - under 1.4; surprisingly, even Jirka is satisfied by that here. He says that even at home the 'wire project' simply cannot be done much better. All bands functional except 50 MHz which is quite dead. There are too few of us to look after it regularly, particularly as Jarda's problems are not getting any better and he keeps complaining even though he has been eating nothing but dry rice noodles for the past three days - the strictest diet food that we have been able to get hold of.
22.2. As the final task, the digital modes were revived. RTTY worked just like at home while the 20 m sub-band reserved for PSK31 was almost dead; after making the first contact with K6KT I had to get used to long drawn-out contacts characteristic of this type of operation and because further contacts took place in a similar manner, I could only make six contacts in the first hour. I returned to RTTY but after several hours the computer crashed and all of the approx. 150 non-logged contacts were lost. My colleagues have become so distrustful of the MMTTY program that they do not want to hear another word about digital modes. Nonetheless I devoted a night to a thorough reading of the program instructions and description and tried to check whether or not the clock frequency of the sound card was correctly set in relation to the processor clock. After reconciling 18% of the difference the program worked normally and the computer did not crash again during the expedition even though we had WIN 98 installed. The others only had DOS and there was not the least problem with any of them.
From that day on, expedition operations stabilized and developed to the full. Daily contact rates varied greatly as the following table indicates; it would be interesting to compare it with the daily geomagnetic and solar activity figures for the same period.
My daily routine stabilized too: in the evening I went to sleep around seven (while Jiri and Jarda made use of the evening conditions), waking between midnight and 2 a.m. and transmitting till around 6 a.m. Then after a rest of one to two hours I got up, had breakfast, saw to my morning hygiene and went to the hut to transmit. I was often so tired that it took me several minutes to come round enough to read the call sign again. After four to five hours I was again so exhausted that I stopped listening and had to finish. In the afternoon I did the repairs and the shopping, went swimming in the lagoon or just rested.
I did not keep to the agreed frequencies that much. Because there was such a great deal of expedition activity and disturbance I just chose a suitable frequency and made a short call. Then it was possible to work briefly on the frequency and reach the highest hourly rate. Then I worked split; I did not give the precise QSX frequency on purpose and I adapted the split to reception conditions.
To give you an idea of a typical day: after supper before sunset. Jirka and Jarda work on the lower frequencies and I go to bed. After midnight, when Jirka and Jarda go to bed I get up. I tune into 20 m, the band is sleepy. I make my call, on the second attempt the Japanese come in. Pleasant, rapid and disciplined operation on the frequency. Suddenly operation intensifies (I am obviously announced in a cluster), and I work split. The hourly rate keeps to around 200 to 230 contacts, the Japanese increase in numbers, I choose callers on increasingly remote frequencies. I call station 'JA3ABL' and the band goes totally silent. 'JA3ABL?' I ask, JA2ABL answers and we finish the contact. Incredible operational discipline! After the Japanese, first eastern and then western Siberia come on. Operation is still perfectly disciplined. The Japanese grow faint and stations from southern Russia increase in number. The hourly rate begins to drop. Southern Europe opens up (southern Italy and Spain). Operation loses its rhythm and reception is increasingly difficult. About an hour after Europe opens up, faint signals arrive from Central Europe. The hourly rate falls to 80 contacts. An Austrian station calls me but I cannot read the number in the callsign. Although I call 'OE2U?' there is a buzz of OK and OM stations calling continuously on his frequency including well-known nuisances from Prague. I do not give in to them, and wishing to improve the contact, I repeatedly ask 'OE2U?', which is only my guess amongst all the interfering signals. After an unsuccessful five minutes I give up, send a 'QRM QRT' and go off onto 21 MHz, where there are fortunately no undisciplined Europeans to be heard. I choose Americans and the hourly rate again increases to 200 contacts; calls gradually fall off and the band closes. It is 5.30 a.m., I switch off and go to bed. I draw the mosquito-net, kill some mosquitoes and quickly fall asleep.
I am awoken in the morning by banging on gas canisters (the bell-chimes for mass), it is half past six, the mass is being sung several metres from my head and I won't get back to sleep. After my morning wash and a quick breakfast I return to the RIG, this time on the 40 m band. Fatigue glues up my eyes, I can only see and read the call signs with difficulty and contacts are clumsy. After about twenty minutes I come round, I increase the tempo to 32 and start working like a machine. Meanwhile my friends have awoken and the second station is activated. After about five hours I am weighed down by fatigue and have to finish.
After lunch (again fish with soy sauce and rice) I tinker about with repairs as the conditions fade and Jarda and Jirka switch off their RIG, we go shopping for something for supper and swim in the lagoon. After supper the merry-go-round repeats.
The days pass quickly and I no longer keep my diary. Jarda's health neither improves nor deteriorates but he is badly exhausted. After a fast of several days he just lives on rice and rice noodles. There is no source of drinking water and people just drink rainwater (usually unboiled) collected six months previously in metal tanks. When we arrived the lack of water was still critical.
Good Bye, Christmas Island!
Our departure was rapidly approaching and the day before we left we dismantled the antennas, packed and forcibly removed Jirka from the equipment. On the morning of the last day we had a group photograph taken together with our friends and then left for the airport, the formalities and - goodbye Christmas Island! We flew off on the Monday and arrived in Honolulu on Sunday (a day earlier). The Pacific 2001 expedition was at an end.
What we achieved
The original objective of the expedition - 40,000 contacts - was exceeded, and Jiri urged us to achieve 45,000; we got half way: overall 42,265 contacts were made, most of them with North America (40.4%), followed by Europe (29.9%), Asia (26.5%), South America (2.3%), Oceania (0.9%) with an insignificant number of African contacts. The most fruitful band was 15 m (8,692 contacts), followed by 10 m (7,408), 20 m (6,298), 40 m (2,705), 30 m (2,006), 80 m (1,994!!) and 160 m (an unbelievable 594 contacts, of which we had contacts with DL7AA, DJ6RX, EA8AK and OK1RF). Victory in the ARRL contest on 21 MHz eluded Jirka by a mere whisker; it is a real pity that the electricity was off for two hours in such good conditions. Jirka had a chance to beat the all-time world record on this band. A total of 20,157 CW contacts were made, 21,017 SSB and 1,111 RTTY, which together with 56 PSK31 contacts represented a first for these modes on T32.
Jirka made the highest number of contacts of all; Jarda was too tormented by pain and exhaustion and I, as an officially recognized senior, am not perhaps what I used to be. The expedition was equipped to the highest technical standard and I am just a little jealous on the quiet that I cannot afford such an antenna farm in Prague. The number of operators did not match the amount of equipment, but as regards the number of contacts made to the number of operators, all the results of the large expeditions were exceeded (e.g. last year's K5K expedition, operating just a few hundred kilometres north of our position).
What has to be written and said over and over again
Several comments on the operation of the expedition. The relationship of an expedition to the rest of the world is reminiscent of the relationship between a conductor and his orchestra. The higher the standard of the expedition and the more disciplined its callers, the smoother and more efficient is its operation. If an expedition requires a split then it is essential that its frequency remains undisturbed otherwise there are needless duplicated contacts: please, do not tune a transmitter to an expedition frequency, do not give them comments and do not call. That way you will help colleagues who are actually in contact with the expedition. If the expedition gives the directional call or makes contact and the contact is taking place, do not call either on the frequency on which the expedition is receiving (this disrupts the expedition) or anywhere else (this disturbs your local colleagues). Once we have a completed contact with an expedition we do not require duplicate contacts. This merely deprives other colleagues of a chance. The most important thing regarding expedition operation is to listen, listen and listen again to expedition instructions and to follow the operational style of the expedition (listening to their traffic rhythm, how they retune after completing QSO, how many times the expedition can be called).
The retuning of an expedition in a pile-up depends on the density of the pile-up. Until my experience on Christmas Island, I called expeditions just above or below the frequency on which the previous contact was made. In intensive pile-ups that I worked, such an intensive and broad accumulation of signals built up on the frequency of the previous contact that not even the strongest station could be read. I had to look for a frequency on which a call was readable, which in dense traffic was up at the end of the pile-up (or at its beginning). In such traffic the successful ones were those who managed to find the least occupied frequency irrespective of where we were working (the favourite and very successful tactic of Tonik OK1MG).
During a contact it did not bother me when friends OK1CF and W6YA communicated the fact that they were on the band by flashing their 'CF' or 'YA' suffix just before completion of a contact. What is bothersome is undisciplined and aggressive calling throughout a contact, making the contact with a weaker station more difficult, reducing the tempo of operation and reducing the chances of making a contact with the expedition. Following the orchestra analogy, Europe reminds me of an orchestra where the musicians all play from their own personal score, independent of the conductor and fellow-players and with chaotic results.
There is no point in calling an expedition that you cannot hear. Even if you get through, you won't find out and if you repeat the call you risk a rebuke from the expedition. When writing my log for the dispatch of QSL cards I noted a case of up to five contacts on one band in the same mode - four amateurs were deprived of the chance to make contact. This happened particularly on low bands.
Financially, physically and mentally, an expedition is a demanding enterprise. Our expedition flew half-way around the world and because we were not sponsored by anybody as a matter of policy, the cost of participating in it drew on a substantial part of my life savings. Just as a matter of interest, for a small expedition of this kind operated in very modest style each contact works out at around CZK 7 of personal expenses (not counting expenses for equipment, organization and QSL cards). During an expedition in such rugged conditions the operators go to the limits of their capabilities. Their one reward is their gratification from intelligently held contacts with decent and capable amateurs and the pleasure that a contact with an expedition gives other people. For me personally, the expedition was the experience of a lifetime, a marvellous seventieth birthday present and a powerful injection of activity and taste for life. I am only very sorry that my operating standard and the behaviour of some European stations were so disappointing.
Some of the new amateurs do not know the principles of expedition operation, cannot get their bearings as regards expedition operation and because they are used to using clusters cannot even listen. The veterans themselves often set a bad example to others and allow themselves to get caught up in an aggressive and inconsiderate style of operation, trying to make their mark at any cost, even at the expense of others. I would like to ask decent European operators to help get Europe back to propriety and proficiency through their personal example and the tactful education and enlightenment of their colleagues. For incorrigible bunglers and nuisances, let us create an award in appreciation of the way they raise the profile of the 'European style' of operation. Do write and tell me what you think, every well-meant suggestion is welcome "ok1pd at quick.cz"
Thanks to all of you who assisted us and showed your goodwill!
|© OK1PD, 2001|